Mizzima Business Weekly - - EDITORIAL -

Guns don’t kill peo­ple, nei­ther do peo­ple ap­par­ently – it is Face­book! Last week, two UN of­fi­cials tasked with look­ing into abuses in Myan­mar scolded Face­book dur­ing a UN Hu­man Rights Coun­cil hear­ing.

When asked whether the plat­form was good or bad for Myan­mar’s emerg­ing democ­racy, UN spe­cial rap­por­teur Yanghee Lee told re­porters it was both but had in­cited "a lot of vi­o­lence and a lot of ha­tred against the Ro­hingya or other eth­nic mi­nori­ties." It was also sug­gested that Face­book mor­phed into a "beast" that helps spread vit­riol against Ro­hingya Mus­lims.

Marzuki Darus­man, chair­man of a UN fact-find­ing mis­sion on Myan­mar, told the UN rights coun­cil that "hate speech and in­cite­ment to vi­o­lence on so­cial me­dia is ram­pant, par­tic­u­larly on Face­book," ac­cord­ing to a writ­ten state­ment of his re­marks.

Not un­sur­pris­ingly, Face­book re­sponded by say­ing it is "se­ri­ously" fight­ing hate speech in Myan­mar. The fact that se­nior UN of­fi­cials sought to blame so­cial me­dia rather than the in­di­vid­u­als who post such in­flam­ma­tory state­ments is some­what in­dica­tive of an or­gan­i­sa­tion that has found it­self floun­der­ing to re­spond ef­fi­ciently to the cri­sis in Rakhine state.

To sug­gest that Face­book is re­spon­si­ble for the men­tal­ity of those that use it is some­what con­de­scend­ing. Hate has been in so­ci­ety since time in mem­o­rium and is hardly a prod­uct of the dig­i­tal age. Does it al­low faster dis­sem­i­na­tion of mes­sages, yes, this is true, as it did dur­ing the Arab Spring. To say that it is the dig­i­tal plat­form rather than the bi­ases of those that use it, down­plays the in­her­ent racism in so­ci­ety and the ed­u­ca­tion peo­ple have re­ceived.

A Face­book spokesper­son has de­fended the site's anti-hate speech strat­egy and said it had in­vested sig­nif­i­cantly in tech­nol­ogy and lo­cal lan­guage ex­per­tise in Myan­mar. Myan­mar's gov­ern­ment has also ac­cused Ro­hingya ac­tivists of spread­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion about the con­flict on­line to garner global sym­pa­thy for their plight.

So­cial me­dia is a tool, if it is used in­cor­rectly it is the fault of the user not the de­liv­ery sys­tem. In the past, if some­one had sent you a let­ter say­ing they didn’t like you, would you re­ally blame the postal worker?

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